Philosophy is to the real world as masturbation is to sex.

21Mar07

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Dialogue Threads from the 21st Century:

The follow is an old conversation I had with one my buddies Philip Santos back in September 2005. I’ve left the original email headers, along with its message so that one may follow the thread of the whole email conversation. I am curious what others think on the theme of the conversation “Philosophy is to the real world as masturbation is to sex.” ….

Where do you find yourself?

From: thecyylo@hotmail.com
Subject: what up
Date: September 26, 2005 9:20:23 AM EDT
To: Jaypraxis@gmail.com

yo Jay,
how was your trip? Any new drama?
Check this quote out – tell me what you think………….
Philosophy is to the real world as masturbation is to sex.
Karl Marx

pHiL Santos…………………………..

From: Jayson Diaz <jaypraxis@gmail.com>
Reply-To: Jayson Diaz <jaypraxis@gmail.com>
To: philip santos <thecyylo@hotmail.com>
Subject: Re: what up
Date: Wed, 28 Sep 2005 00:01:50 -0400

What’s up!

It was good. I went to the beach and hung out with the guys. I’ll talk to you more about that later.

As far as the quote. I can see why Marx would say that, since his communists movement talked a lot about action or what they refer to as praxis, so to him philosophers were a bunch of mental masturbators
Taking the quote without any context and just for its worth alone, philosophy can get to a state that just toys and plays around with ideas and concepts. Mere thinkers may find a little safe haven speaking of reality but from the imagination of their mental worlds. It is easier and safer to formulate ideas in the head and go to extents in justifying them , than to go to the real world and experimenting reality; and making mistakes in the process(proving and disproving).

This is a subset of thinkers, but it is not true of all philosophers. Philosophy also attacks other realms of curiosities, questions and inclinations in the human experience that engulfing ourselves in the real world would never satisfy.

A hundred percent realism and action can also be a way to keep “busy” . It could be a way of avoiding burning questions and conflicts within and convince ourselves that if we’re in motion and marching forward that must mean that we’re as good as we can be.

I believe that philosophy, reflection, hypothesizing, and abstract thinking is a natural result from our human experience, since we’re only mortal and limited. Humans also have the gift of action, decision, determination, movement, experience, exploration. The two, philosophizing and having the courage to act and experiment is key. It is key to living a full and meaningful life.

Philosphizing may be solely enough for some, but those who embrace it along with philosophy’s kin reality, proximity to integrity is their prize.

From: thecyylo@hotmail.com
Subject: Re: what up
Date: September 28, 2005 9:21:31 AM EDT
To: jaypraxis@gmail.com

That is a very interesting perspective one that I also agree with. A difficulty immediately exists once an individual begins a “philosophical, thought provoking, authentic spiritual” journey. A dilemma that I have noticed is the conflicting reality between the ideas and convictions that present themselves compared to the willingness to accept these premises and to live them out. It is easy to discuss higher ideals and issues then it is to act upon them. On the other hand, as you mentioned, it is quite easy, for some, to act and to consistently act without taking the time to struggle with their existence. Both situations are ways of avoiding our “true” selves. It is very rare to find a person let alone a community of people that are not only willing to face their “demons” and to struggle with the realities of their lives but who are also willing to act.
Where do you find yourself?

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5 Responses to “Philosophy is to the real world as masturbation is to sex.”

  1. I think we ought to get more stuff from your email archives….lol.

    Karl Marx once said: “Religion is the opium of the people.”

    Marx also said: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point, however, is to change it. ”

    I think Marx viewed religion and philosophy as malnourished and atrophied ideas. Abstract concepts that had no utility or practical application for the common man during the 1800’s. All he saw was commoners, the proletariat, entrapped in economic squalor. Marx would argue that modern man is still in this economic predicament.

    But, I do not want to digress from the central point of your dialog. Which I interpret as, does philosophy have a place in our lives, or is it just um…errr….mental masturbation?

    Well from an academic and historical perspective we can say that philosophy is the cornerstone of man’s development. Here are some brief examples.

    The pre-Socratics were the mid wives of modern day physics. Socrates gave us the dialectic, and is considered the father of moral and political philosophy. Plato gave us the theory of the forms, which laid out the metaphysical ground work for future philosophers and theologians. Aristotle gave us the “First Mover Theory”, and laid the ground work for modern science. The list goes on and on…Buddha, Jesus, Mohamed, St Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Occam, Descartes, Spinoza, Hume, Locke, Hobbes, Kant, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, oh yeah and Marx!

    These thinkers certainly changed the world with their ideas. On a macro level they shaped modern day civilization, the seeds of our political and spiritual doctrines. On a micro level they shaped how we think!

    I’d say that those thinkers ideas was the super sperm of civilization.

    Marx would argue that yes these prodigious thinkers did indeed change the world, but what have they done for me lately? So he whipped out a sledge hammer handed it to his comrades and said this shall set you free.

    So, when Marx exclaims “Philosophy is to the real world as masturbation is to sex” what does that provocative syllogism mean to us. What does that mean to Phil, Jayson, Peter Paul, and Mary in our everyday lives?

    Here we cut to the meat of the matter. I think it means that we can choose from the myriad of philosophies out there. Are you a French existentialist, a brooding nihilist, a deity defying atheist, a Hegelian dialectic, believe in the Kantian imperative, a care free bohemian, a monopolistic capitalist, a radical leftist, a bleeding heart liberal, a right wing neo con, a Mahayana Buddhist, a mystic Sufi, a wandering beatnik, perhaps you subscribe to ancient gnosticism.

    Yet, are these philosophies just archetypes we choose to identify and define ourselves? Do we put them on like costumes in a Shakespearean play? Complex masks we use to shield our shallowness? Cloaks that shield us from taking an active role in changing our world, or more importantly our inner world?

    I think Jayson makes an excellent point when he says “philosophizing and having the courage to act and experiment is key. It is key to living a full and meaningful life.”

    I think we often parrot philosophies and speak of “ideals” as Phil says, without any intention of acting on them – that would be dangerous to our ego, we wouldn’t want that.

    Be bold. Take a philosophical vehicle that helps you go inward, if that vehicle does not work, get off, and get on another one.

  2. 2 Louis Leon

    The world is not flat. And neither is Life. Human thought has advanced, as a study of the history of philosophy makes evident. Nevertheless, what is the common knowledge of most of us. Or put another way, from where do we commonly operate in our interactions with others and to ourselves within our own lives. Most of the time, we live in a flat land, with no sense of our own personal development within the context of a long life with a significant growth path behind us and a tremendous growth path ahead of us. In short, most of us, at any particular moment, whether that moment was ten years ago, ten days ago, ten seconds ago, or, unfortunately, ten weeks from today, will have the same central thought, the same un-waivering perspective, that we have “arrived”.

    This “arrival” should not be confused with some commercial or class based sense of the word. I mean it in a Copernican sense. In the sense that we are uniquely distinct, the brightest object in our own galaxy, and that the rest of it all are just satellites that revolve around “I”. Despite the healthy benefits of this strong self-esteem the common knowledge, the common understanding of the nature of life, of the phenomenology of the human experience has advanced little from the Copernican model ( a revolution in epistemology ), and not at all from the Newtonian mechanical model of cause and effect. The common consciousness, despite the experience of our own lives of traveling through different levels of development, is a flat landscape with no allowance for one’s consciousness operating from the valley one moment or the mountain top the next, much less giving allowance to our fellow man ( unless they are a loved one ) that they might be flipping flopping about in their own internal landscape.

    The history of the development of human thought, i.e. philosophy, is the history ( ignoring my western civilization bias for the moment ) of the “study” of ourselves. Study, not in the navel gazing way of a flatlander, but in the sophisticated ways of the great philosophers. Yes, start by sitting in the audience listening to the music, and then realizing that ‘music’ is something special and different from ‘noise’. Do you hear the individual instruments or the whole piece? Are you listening to individual instruments or the whole piece? What is the difference? What difference does this make in you? What difference does any insight make in you? What difference does/has the totality of previous insights made as you eat your way through the albumen that is our personality in our irresistible drive to break through the shell that confines our awareness.

    The great philosophers had their epiphanies that fueled their personal growth, but those epiphanies, on the grand scale of things, were inevitable. Mankind moves forward, like the ever expanding universe, and a snapshot of this movement will show particles of human consciousness, in the form of legendary thinkers and leaders, but remember the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle or what you know of Quantum Theory. That is, for the sake of this conversation, in reverse order, the perceiver influences the perceived and what is perceived may be a particle or a wave, mass or energy, but not both at the same time. Know that they ARE both at the same time ( at least in terms of the most advanced thinking of our time ). Know that the great philosophers, as particles of the human consciousness, are like the might redwoods on the high slopes of a mountaintop alpine forest; that is, just trees and not maps of the forest. Yes they have the high ground. But what of you. Do you make your camp in the shade of the tree and relax in the comfort of it shade, maybe even becoming part of its eco-system? For a while yes. We all need to become acclimated to these dizzying new heights. So make a base camp and come to terms with the flora and fauna in this new place. Understand what this new place has to teach you about you. Understand this new part of your internal landscape as you accept it and eat through it. Then move on. Not as a botanist to study other trees as your ends, but with no less respect for the trees and the forest. Not as a capitalist who taps the tree to make snake oil to sell to the low landers, but with no less embracing of the world we live in. You and I each have a mountaintop to make taller, a universe to grow, another shell to break through, and the Infinite awaits us. So put on your Courage, like those before us that have dared to speak of life in new terms, and let the blossom that is you show all what has never existed before. Time will tell, but history may write about you as well.

  3. Awesome post Louis! I’ll need several days just to digest this blast of wisdom.

  4. 4 p.santos

    I think that your response is fascinating. Concerning human “progression” I think that an interesting course has taken place. If you consider the ancient river valley civilizations the philosophical bottom line was a belief in the super “natural”, a deep sense of a spirituality which gave birth too the established religions that exists today. For good and for bad these religions became the dominant form of philosophical expression. The enlightenment shook these beliefs, forcing some to refine themselves, while others were discarded. The “super” natural became the work of witchcraft while the natural sciences became the religion of modern humanity. Civilization seemed to be at a transitional place were answers would be found and peace would be achieved. The modern world was a place of promise, excitement, and hope (forgive me Nietzsche.) Imperialism, colonization, global conflicts, the unfinished war between capitalism and socialism, nuclear proliferation, and other ugly events and some interesting trends (a return to the Flat world) have reversed the “progressive” path. By reverse I do not automatically mean a negative but the rise of fundamentalism is a challenge. On the other hand, when individuals have the opportunity to search through the individual materialistic dilemma that we are a part of a thirst for spiritual and philosophical food becomes evident. Our postmodern world is a very interesting place. The modern and enlightened mind desires what many would argue is an ancient spiritual understanding of the world. What we do with these desires (some would argue needs) is an intriguing questions.

  5. 5 Jayson Diaz

    Guys you are killing me. Just when I am recuperating from one mental knowledge blast yet another missile is released. The writing is very informative as well as inspirational. After this post I may have to come up with some comic relief for all our readers, before some start to think that we’re an esoteric bunch.

    I may have to read again a couple of times more and drop some more questions and comments on this topic. Wow…………..just trying to regain my poise again.

    -Praxistential


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